Keeping in the mind the lean and mean Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) to be supported by artillery and armor, next month the Indian army’s Mountain Strike Corps will launch three IBGs in a major drill. These brigade-size formations will be in a simulated situation across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), closer to Doklam and will be supported by artillery, helicopters, tanks and Infantry Combat Vehicles.
The primary aim of carrying out such an exercise is to test if the Mountain Strike Corps which is under the Eastern command can carry out operations in different terrains. The concept for such integrated exercises was in works for several months and will be witnessed carefully by the Chief of the Indian Army Gen Bipin Rawat who will be accompanied by his top generals.
The IBGs mobile formation of 5,000 soldiers is the future of the Indian Army's restructuring and this will also ensure that the forces are able to operate in different terrains. This will be the first-ever exercise of this nature and is in accordance with the 2005 protocol which India has with China under which it is stated that both sides will not hold military exercises involving more than one division (around 15,000 troops ) and closer to the LAC.
These three IBGs for the exercises have been picked out from the 17 Corps’ Panagarh-based 59 Mountain Division and are expected to be airlifted to the forward areas by the Indian Air Force Transport aircraft closer to the drill.
Though the sources did not divulge the nature of the exercise, it will give a fair idea to the planners in the Army, Headquarters to understand how these IBGs can be deployed in different terrains starting from Jammu and Kashmir all the way to Rann of Kutch.
According to the Army Chief, no two IBGs will be the same as they will be more sector-specific and terrain specific. Also, it is expected that depending on the terrain and the threat perception, these formations will move with bridging equipment, tanks, and artillery.
In sectors where they would expect tough resistance especially in Pakistan’s Punjab province, they could also get additional support from the IAF’s newly acquired AH-64E Apache helicopter gunships.
Restructuring in the Indian Army
Gen Bipin Rawat has been pushing for the long-overdue restructuring of the Army which is expected to help in enhancing combat effectiveness.
In August, the defence minister Rajnath Singh put his seal of approval to restructure the Indian Army. The decision to re-structure the Indian Army has been taken based on a detailed internal study which was conducted by the Army Headquarters (AHQ) and is in line with the government's plan to turn the 1.3-million strong Army into a leaner and a meaner Army for a 21st-century war.
Supporting the restructuring of the Indian Army, Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, (Retd), former DGMO and Director CENJOWS, said that with a war waging strategy (proactive) along the Western borders, restructuring is needed.
The former DGMO said that some divisions can be reconfigured into Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) and Brigades which can be controlled by the Corps HQs. "Given the current state of infrastructure with fragile lines of communication prone to disruptions, this may not be feasible along the Northern Borders."